Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

This comment from robertloxton was posted on one of my how much does a barn conversion cost posts the other day.

Hello,
I bought a threshing barn and subsequently got pp for conversion to one dwelling. There are so many different ideas and prejudices out there about how and where to go about this.

The best advice I had…..was to make sure you applied for what you really wanted for yourself. Not to be unduly influenced by other peoples experience. Sometimes you find that experience (including professional) is 20 years old….and in truth matters have moved on. The economy has moved on.

So my answer is to spend a huge amount of time reasearching and establishing for yourself what you want. Head up the applications yourself and use the professionals as back up to you. Don’t let them be the lead players.
Clearly you have to be doing this in an informed way. But rocket science it ain’t.

I think there are some really important points in there…

I’m not anti-architect, I’ve never used one myself but I know a few and value their advice and opinion. But Roberts point on your conversion being about “what you really wanted for yourself” is key to personal success for most fool-hardy instigators of conversion projects. I’m not wanting to pick on architects, but I see them as a key source of opinions that differ from your own and the most likely to be able to shift your project away from “what you really wanted for yourself“. By all means seek advice, explore differing opinions and adjust your own thoughts, but I strongly believe that you should own the overall vision for the conversion yourself.

It can be alluring to seek advice and delegate decision making, to play the part of a patron rather than project manager, but that’s rarely the route to personal success and the satisfaction gained from a vision made real that should come from a successful conversion. Unless you truly have more money than sense & a willingness to create the vision of others then conversion is surely not for the weak-hearted.

It was never planned this way, but I realise now that the name of this website enshrines this approach, it is after all, MY Barn Conversion.

VAT and Conversions

I was tweeting the other day about VAT on conversions…

I was tweeting the other day about VAT on conversions.

An article in Homebuilding Magazine titled (somewhat harshly) ‘Incompetent Inland Revenue, helpful H&R‘ provided the ‘revelation’ that the conversion of a building that hasn’t been occupied for 10+ years (or ever) is VAT exempt. Although 5% VAT is payable during conversion it can be reclaimed at the end of the project.

Personally I thought that was bloody obvious.

HMRC provides the following guidance (a simple Google search on “VAT on conversions” will get you there):

Where the building is a conversion, it must be of a non-residential building. That means a building that has either never been lived in, or hasn’t been lived in for the last ten years – not even on an occasional basis as a second home. Illegal occupation by squatters doesn’t count, however, and you are allowed to live in the property while the work’s being done, as long you move in after the work has started.

From – VAT refunds on self-build new homes or non-residential conversions

I don’t know, but perhaps, equating conversion to self-build, this level of lazy ‘uninformation’ is what holds back the UK from anything but novelty levels of self-build.

My question is…. is it too much to ask people to do their homework when undertaking one of the largest investments of their lives?

(Hope I’ve not just jinxed my own VAT reclaim with my wise-ass comments…)

In my absence…

In my absence the quality of the advice on this site has certainly improved… 😉

johnrush a ‘Chartered Building Services Engineer’ has made a couple of interesting comments on the forum.

Firstly on the heating-help-needed topic, John has written an informative piece on insulation. I particularly like his holistic ‘six-sided’ approach to insulation:

Try to think of your house as a box and you are trying to heat the inside of it. The top of the box is the easiest to deal with as it is relatively easy to add insulation to the roof space. Just dealing with the loft will not help much as you have only tackled one of the six sides.

John then goes on to add to the discussion of heat-pumps with some clear and informative information.

Thanks John!

Forum update – March 2012…

A couple of interesting posts on the much neglected forum recently…

Justin is a cabinet maker looking to gain experience from a barn conversion – post on his forum topic if you think you may have an opportunity for him.

lornapotter is looking for options on how to open up the first floor of barn conversion that she is about to undertake. Waist high tie-beams currently make the space unusable. I attempted to point out some of the options, but I’m sure there are more – please take a look at the More head height required topic on the forum.

Lessons learnt the hard way – squeaky floorboards

Having spent a few hours cutting out tongues (from floorboards nothing more sinister), lifting boards, rummaging around underneath them, padding and separating copper pipes with insulation, rescrewing and renailing, I discovered that in fact the easiest way to quieten down squeaky floorboards was to simply rehammer the heads of the nails that hold the boards in place. The boards had worked slightly lose over the last 30 years and a tap or two tightens them up by the half a millimetre or so needed to put them back into place.